June 19, 2001
Since school is out now in most jurisdictions, lots of people will be heading to the shore. According to Dr. Stephen Leatherman of the University of Miami, who rates the best beaches in the US, six of the top 20 US beaches are in Florida and six are in Hawaii. The number two ranked beach, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Florida is shown above. North Carolina has three beaches in the top 20 and New York has two. California, New Jersey and Massachusetts each have one. What makes a great beach? Wide beaches with clean sand and clear, warm water are essential. All-together, Dr. Leatherman uses about 50 factors.
The Florida Panhandle is blessed with a number of beautiful white beaches. The sand isn't bleached by the Sun. It's white primarily because of the type of rock that it comes from, relatively clear quartz. The sand is brought down from the hills of northern and central Georgia by rivers like the Flint and Chattahoochee. When the quartz is more transparent, photons of sunlight are not as readily absorbed as they are by quartz grains having more impurities. Thus, the quartz sand having fewer impurities appears brighter.